A new approach to model the spatial and temporal variability of recharge to karst aquifers
Abstract. In karst systems, near-surface dissolution of carbonate rock results in a high spatial and temporal variability of groundwater recharge. To adequately represent the dominating recharge processes in hydrological models is still a challenge, especially in data scarce regions. In this study, we developed a recharge model that is based on a conceptual model of the epikarst. It represents epikarst heterogeneity as a set of system property distributions to produce not only a single recharge time series, but a variety of time series representing the spatial recharge variability. We tested the new model with a unique set of spatially distributed flow and tracer observations in a karstic cave at Mt. Carmel, Israel. We transformed the spatial variability into statistical variables and apply an iterative calibration strategy in which more and more data was added to the calibration. Thereby, we could show that the model is only able to produce realistic results when the information about the spatial variability of the observations was included into the model calibration. We could also show that tracer information improves the model performance if data about the spatial variability is not included.